Thursday, 12 March 2009

Chocolate Tax

I just came in from work, flicked the telly on to BBC news and was greeted by a story on Dr David Walker, a Scottish GP, who thinks that chocolate should be taxed.

"There is an explosion of obesity and the related medical conditions, like type
2 diabetes. I see chocolate as a major player in this, and I think a tax on
products containing chocolate could make a real difference."

My first thought was, “surely he can’t be serious?” and, judging by the smirk on the newsreader’s face after the piece, I don’t think she was taking him seriously either.

The problem is, that while Dr Walker’s underlying message makes sense (too much chocolate is bad for you), by suggesting taxation as a solution, he reveals that he doesn’t have the most basic grasp on economics, psychology or plain old-fashioned common sense.

Chocolate is cheap, really cheap. Exactly how much tax are you going to have to put on it to stop people buying it? Even if you doubled the price of a Mars bar from 50p to £1, do you think it will prevent anyone at all from buying them? And which political party in their right mind is going to support such a tax anyway?

Dr Walker is an intelligent man, but by shooting his mouth off about economic policy, something he obviously knows nothing about, he’s ended up looking like a total tit.

Now, where did I leave that Galaxy bar?


Davey Jones said...

personally i think that in a similar vein to the banning of smoking from pubs, we should make fat people go outside to eat their crisps.

Oliver Smith said...

Dr Walker would feel right at home in Her Majesty's Government. Few of them know a lot about economic policy as well.

Don't forget they did suggest a "fat tax" on overly fatty foods and their fiscal inabilities are causing us to descend into an economic depression.

Harry said...

davey jones, why make only FAT people go outside? make EVERYONE go outside. we don't make only fat smokers leave establishments to enjoy a cigarette now do we?

while chocolate in excess is bad for health, so are lots of things - i think that point is overlooked - think of all the people who gorge themselves on fast food every day and how much that costs (bigger profit margin than choc, surely?) ... stricter regulations on what restaurants / food chains can / can't sell?

or just let people make their own decisions and live by them? ... i dont understand why the govt gives families without much money more money instead of vouchers to be used on proper food, clothes (not bling), and educational materials.

the whole thing seems rather messy.

rooroo said...

Oh dear, it's the kind of thing I'd expect to read on The Onion [his words, not your blog post]

I wonder if chocolate protein bars count?

rosiero said...

Well, the tax-man might as well take the lot from me now!

themadengineer said...

A tax on chocolate seems like an interesting way to raise funds. Chocolate can be argued to be non-essential, strictly speaking, and it's not as if heavy-chocolate-users can be singled out by any other trait, so it's arguably "fair."

I do doubt that the tax will reduce chocolate consumption by any serious measurement. Like you predicted, I agree that people will buy just as much as before. I think people will complain heavily, and possibly shift funds around to deal with the extra expense. Many people will whine and moan about how "unfair" it is that their chocolate habit now costs twice as much.

Taxes are not a big a motivator as the fiscal-conservative parties in the US seem to think they are. (I'm not familiar with British politics -- does the UK conservative party also argue that taxing things discourages action?) I'm willing to bet that in these kinds of "instant pleasure" purchases, the buyer is not concerned at all about what it costs until actually paying, and then only because the time and money is a limiting factor.